Sandy Kenyon reviews powerful film 'Detroit'

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A new movie about the 1967 riots in Detroit opens in some theaters this week, offering a gritty look inside the chaos and violence.

The film stars John Boyega in his first major role since bursting onto the scene in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

The best movie so far this year is also the toughest to watch, as "Detroit" tells a story of racism and police brutality in 1967 that is so harsh it can elicit tears.

"Detroit" is riveting, a must-see experience that engages the mind and touches the heart like few films can. It happened half a century ago this month, and yet the scars linger to this day.

Through a skillful mix of new and archival footage, Oscar-winning director Katherine Bigelow brings the chaotic scene back to life before focusing on a particuliar case of extreme brutality that began with a party in a motel and led to a tragic misunderstanding.

"It was an isolated spot of danger, and these police officers just decided to do what they want," Boyega said. "And I'm shocked at the fact it's been 50 years, and we're still having the same conversation."

Boyega plays a security guard who goes to investigate, and the racist cops he encounters next are composite characters based on real officers who stood trial for murdering three young black men. But his is a very real character.

"It definitely requires respect and integrity," Boyega said. "Because my character, he's still alive."

The security guard tried to defuse the situation, much to his misfortune. "Detroit" bears witness in a way that will anger and appall you.

"We had to just keep, you know, this level of intensity in our minds and keep in the situation current and fresh," Boyega said. "So that when the cameras started rolling, the audience feels they're in that moment. And that's something that was very, very important."

The movie is so upsetting and moving and thoughtful that it's easier simply to call it "essential."

"Detroit," sure to be an Oscar contender, goes into wide release next weekend.
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